Turkmen Human Rights Activist Threatened, Web Site Attacked
A Turkmen human rights activist living in exile in Austria has had his web site hacked and threats of a physical attack on him have been conveyed to him indirectly, apparently by Turkmen security forces.
Farid Tuhbatullin, head of the exile group Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, who directs the website chrono-tm.org, told EurasiaNet that his group's website was disabled all last week due to an attack by unknown hackers, and that a threat of a physical attack on him has been delivered through emigre sources from the Turkmen Ministry of Security (MNB).
On September 28, Tuhbatullin gave an interview in Russian to the satellite TV channel K+, which broadcasts to Central Asia including Turkmenistan. The interview was twice shown on September 29, and later posted to the YouTube Turkmen Dissident TV channel. On September 30, at a meeting of Turkmenistan's Security Council in Ashgabat, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov gave a stern speech to the MNB, according to the official government website:
The demand of the day is to reinforce preventive measures and not allow criminal activity. I have confidence that you can effectively use the favorable conditions created for defense of our native Fatherland, and you will wage an uncompromising battle with universal evil -- international terrorism, narcotics contraband, and not to allow the emergence and basing in our country of nationalist and radical religious movements, and also be uncompromising warriors against those who defame our democratic law-based secular state and try to destroy the unity and solidarity of our society, the peaceful flow of our life, and interfere with the growth of the country's economy.
On October 1, chrono-tm.org was attacked, and much of the content, including the English language section could not be displayed for some days. TIHR changed from a Moscow host to another one abroad and the site is back up again.
Tuhbatullin had intended to travel to Warsaw to take part in the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Review Conference, but when he learned of the troubles other Turkmen activists were having with gaining admission, he decided not to come and wait to apply to the next round of the Review Conferece which opens in Vienna on October 18.
On October 9, Tuhbatullin was told by a reliable source who requested anonymity that Turkmenistan security forces were planning some kind of physical attack on him. He decided to check the information and contact Austrian authorities before publishing the news, and also continue with his scheduled appearance to speak at the International Press Institute in Vienna on lack of media freedom in Turkmenistan.
But when he received fresh warnings on October 11 from another source, he decided to publicize the threat in the hope of alerting the international community to protest and discouraging Turkmen authorities from carrying out any retaliation against him for his critical reporting.
According to the sources that conveyed the threat, unnamed Turkmen agents are planning to make an attack on him that would "look like a car accident or a sudden heart attack" and be hard to trace.
On the advice of international human rights groups, Farid decided to publicize the threat against him for his work. "I only ask for your help. Any help," he said in an appeal to colleagues. He plans to continue his public speeches and writing for chrono-tm.org and will attempt to register for the OSCE Review Conference in Vienna, where he has lived since receiving political asylum from the Austrian government.